Television Interview, ABC News Breakfast

Release details

Release type

Related ministers and contacts

The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

Media contact

02 6277 7800

Release content

22 March 2024

SUBJECT/S: Submarine announcements, Law Reform Commission report.

HOST, BRIDGET BRENNAN: Adelaide shipbuilder ASC, together with BAE Systems, will build Australia's new nuclear submarines. The announcement is being confirmed ahead of talks between Australian and UK Ministers, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Defence Minister, Richard Marles, joins us now from Adelaide's Osborne shipyard. Very good morning to you, Richard Marles. Just take us through what you're announcing this morning.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, RICHARD MARLES: Well, this is a really important step in Australia acquiring a nuclear powered submarine capability. Today we'll be announcing that ASC, an Australian government owned company, will enter into a joint venture with BAE, which is currently the builder of Britain's nuclear-powered submarines, to form a joint venture to build submarines for the Royal Australian Navy right here at the Osborne Naval shipyard. And that will see something in the order of 4,000 to 5,000 people involved in building those submarines on what will be the most technologically advanced manufacturing facility- certainly in Australia- and one of the most technologically advanced in the world. So, it's a really important step towards Australia acquiring this capability. And it's a really big moment in terms of Australia's industry.

BRENNAN: When will those jobs be available for people in South Australia? And are you confident we've got the skills, the capabilities as well as the technologies to really service those 4,000 to 5,000 jobs in South Australia?

MARLES: I am confident. I mean, there is a lot of work, though, that's going to need to be done to build that skills base. The first step is actually constructing the yard and work is really already underway. We've had the land swap with the South Australian government here at Osborne, which allows us to move forward on that now. Something like up to 4,000 people will be involved in the construction of the yard, which in turn will then enable the construction of the submarines. But we will be building here at Osborne a skills academy which will be focused on making sure that we get that skills base up to the speed that we need to have it at in order to build these submarines. Because you're right in identifying this is a really high tech endeavour. One of the great benefits for our country is going to be the skills uplift across our broader industry, actually, by virtue of what we are doing here. And it is a challenge, but we're confident that we're going to be able to meet that challenge.

BRENNAN: Part of this $4.6 billion will go to the UK for part of this nuclear reactor manufacturing. It is a lot of money, Richard Marles. I mean, can you just explain to Australians why it costs so much and why this component needs to be done in the United Kingdom?

MARLES: Well, we made clear a year ago that we wouldn't be building the nuclear reactors in Australia. They will be built by Rolls Royce at its facility in Derby in the UK. And then once those reactors, which are sealed reactors are built, they will be taken here to the Osborne Naval shipyard and placed in the submarines, which the rest of which will be built here at Osborne. Building nuclear reactors is a difficult thing to do. And in order for this to then play out, that facility in Derby, which is also building nuclear reactors for Britain's navy, needs to be expanded, and that's what this contribution is for. But I was actually at that facility last year and they're already readying themselves to build the Australian reactors there. Indeed, there are parts being made as we speak, which will be on the submarine that will eventually first roll off the production line here in the early 2040s. So, it's really important that we get onto this now. It takes a long time to build these machines and it's important that that uplift happens in the UK. But the biggest investment we're making in industry is right here in Australia through to the 2050s, we'll spend something like $30 billion in building the industrial base here in Australia, which will see us be able to construct these nuclear powered submarines.

BRENNAN: There's such a long lead in time for this equipment. Can you just outline why it is that nuclear-powered submarines are the option that Australia is pressing ahead with?

MARLES: Well, what nuclear-powered submarines enable us to do is to have submarines underwater, doing what they do, which is to act with stealth in a persistent way. I mean, for months, indeed, when you've got nuclear power, powering the submarine, the limiting factor in terms of having a submarine underwater ends up being the food for the crew. Right now, our Collins class submarines, which are highly capable, are diesel-electric submarines. But every few days, they are required to come to the surface to turn on their diesel engines, engage in what's called snorting- to recharge the electric batteries. And whilst you can do that now in a way which is relatively undetected, all that we understand is that through the latter part of this decade and into the 2030s, that activity will become more detectable, which means that those submarines, being able to maintain their stealth will be, that will become much more difficult, which is why if we want to actually maintain the capability we've got today, we are going to need to do it with nuclear power in those submarines. And that's why it's really important that we walk down that path. And I think the final point to make is submarines are the single most important military platform that we have. And so it's really critical that we have a highly capable, highly capable submarine taking us into the future. And nuclear power is what we'll need to power that.

HOST: Richard Marles, on another issue, should schools, religious schools, lose or retain the right to dismiss teachers and expel students on the rights of sexuality and gender identity, as the Law Reform Commissioners recommended? Where's the government going with this?

MARLES: Well, look, we've seen the Law Reform Commission's report. We've got that. We'll take our time to consider that. I mean, I think that the important point here is we want to see the reforms in relation to dealing with issues of religious discrimination, but it's really important that we are walking forward with consensus. The Attorney-General has been doing a great job in speaking with people and stakeholders across the community, including religious schools. He'll continue to do that in respect of this report. But we need to really try and build consensus in this country around moving down the path that we eventually do, and that involves also building consensus across the parliament.

HOST: Richard Marles in Adelaide, we appreciate your time this morning.

MARLES: Thank you.

Other related releases